Thursday, December 31, 2015

Blog Tour & Review :: The Wedding Chapel by Rachel Hauck



Title: The Wedding Chapel
Author: Rachel Hauck
Publisher: Zondervan (November 2015)

Source: Received from publisher via LitFuse Publicity Group


Buy book: here

For sixty years, a wedding chapel sat silent, waiting for love. But times have changed and the hour has come when it just might be too late.
Retired hall-of-fame football coach Jimmy “Coach” Westbrook never imagined anything would come of his labor of love—the wedding chapel he built for Collette Greer, the woman he fell for back in ‘49. But now an offer has come to turn the chapel into what it was meant to be—a place for love—and Jimmy sees no reason to hang onto his dream any longer.
Photographer Taylor Branson is trying to make a life for herself in New York. Leaving her hometown of Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, she put a lot of things behind her, including her family’s abysmal marriage rate. But love surprises her when she falls head-over-heels for Jack Forester, a top ad man. Their whirlwind romance results in an elopement, and a mountain of doubt. Jack, while genuine in his love for Taylor, can never seem to overcome his own demons to find the words of his heart.
When Taylor takes an assignment in Heart’s Bend, the job does more than send her back to her hometown, but into a world of family secrets buried beneath the sands of time.
When Taylor’s journey intersects with Coach’s, they rediscover the heartbeat of their dreams and that the love they long to hold is right in front of them. And worth every waiting moment.
Review:
I adored this latest book from one of my favorite authors, Rachel Hauck. Hauck has a way of writing Christian fiction in a way where faith is interwoven into the story in a very natural, realistic, relatable way. I am a huge fan of Christian fiction and that is not always easy to do. Usually the "God parts" seem weird and out of place sometimes. However, the way Hauck shows God working through all the aspects of the character's lives is refreshing because it feels authentic. It feels like something you and me deal with on a daily basis. And that is why you love Hauck's writing, because you always feel like you are right there in the story with the characters with them and you really care about them too. A lot. The love stories are never superficial, but full of romance in a way that you don't usually read about in contemporary romance. This is my fourth or fifth book that I've read from Hauck and each book just keeps getting better and better. 

This latest book, The Wedding Chapel, is a treat. I love stories told from multiple perspectives because I think it makes gives it more depth. However, it's not always an easy thing to do. I know this firsthand because the novel I started during NaNoWriMo is told from two points of view. The hardest part is to give each character a unique voice that is their own and different from everyone else. Being able to maintain that for FOUR characters (and in different time periods) is a testament to Hauck's craft because she does this really well with Jimmy, Taylor, Jack, and Colette in this book. You're never confused about who is telling the story. Plus, figuring out how these characters' lives are woven into each other was so enjoyable, especially once the two major story lines start to overlap. 

Each of the four characters are flawed in their own ways and they battle their own demons and insecurities. Even though you might think that it is predictable what will happen to each of them, I found myself riveted throughout the whole story because of all the unexpected twists and turns. This book also has themes of love, acceptance, family dynamics, and redemption. Hauck's masterful storytelling always takes you along a journey in her books. What a fun and charming journey this book was! 


Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

About the author:



Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as The Wedding DressLove Starts with Elle, and Once Upon A Prince. She also penned the Songbird Novels with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Booklist named their novel, Softly and Tenderly, one of 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pets.

Connect with Rachel: websiteTwitterFacebook
 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reflections on finishing NaNoWriMo 2015


FINAL WORD COUNT:
57,919

So, I just finished my first attempt at NaNoWriMo!

HIGHS:
  • Actually finishing 50k words in 30 days. I've toyed with the idea of writing a book for about two years now and when NaNoWriMo came around this year, it just kind of snuck up on me. (Meaning, I forgot all about it until Oct. 31st.) I signed up so last minute and I made no plans at all, which is completely unlike me. I didn't think I would accomplish it this first go around, but I am so proud of myself for actually finishing! 
  • Writing each night on 27 out of the 30 days. I am not very good at doing things a little at time, like doing a little each day. Having procrastination tendencies. I'm much more inclined to do things in bursts. However, 50k words is not really something I had time to do in bursts, so I had to force myself to write a little bit each night. Other than the time my family visited Disneyland this month, I wrote every night. It became a routine that I looked forward too. Even though it wasn't fantastic writing each night, I enjoyed having the quiet night to myself and my keyboard. 
  • Finally getting the story that's been in my head for years, out on paper... (or the screen). I've had this idea for the book I started this month for a long, long time. Probably since college, but it felt really, really good to finally put it to real words and onto the screen. I still have a lot of work to do, but a bad first draft is better than no first draft, right?
  • Remembering that I've always liked to write, even as a kid. It's been awhile, but it was during this month that I remembered that I used to write books when I was kid on my mom's typewriter. I hadn't thought about it in a long, long time. I also remembered that I wrote some fan-fiction (before it was called fan-fiction) back in high school on some books I read where I wanted the girl in the story to end up with a different guy. So, maybe it's something I actually like doing. (Who knew?) 
  • Feeling inspired by the thousands of people doing NaNoWriMo too! It was comforting to know be a part of a larger community of people doing the same thing alongside you. Twitter was a great way to connect with people. I wish I had more time to do write-ins, in person, but maybe that's something for future NaNoWriMos.
  • The encouragement from my friends, students, and loved ones. I told everyone that I was doing this NaNoWriMo thing because I knew the more people I told, the more people would hold me accountable to finishing and not giving up. It was also great to be able to talk about my book and bounce ideas off those I trust most. Lastly, my husband was my number one fan through this endeavor. 
  • The roller-coaster of writing. The first 20k came easy. 
LOWS:
  • The roller-coaster of writing. The next 20k was tough. Like I wanted to chuck my whole story out the window because I just hated it that much. I also took everything and messed it all up for the last 15k. I think that's probably why I went over 50k. 
  • Feeling all the feels. So, when I messed everything up in my story, it was after I was listening to sad music for three hours and then I gave myself a book hangover. It took me off guard how much I was invested in my characters after living with them for a month. 
  • Letting go of my perfectionistic tendencies. I am looking forward to editing this upcoming month. It was hard at first to not go back and fix everything, but after awhile, just plowing through and being okay with the crappy writing was quite liberating. Now I just have a much longer crappy first draft to deal with, but at least I didn't spend this month rewriting the same paragraph ten times. 
  • Being MIA from my family and my other interests. I'm pretty sure my husband is looking forward to having me go to bed at the same time as him for the first time in a month. Plus, I've spent every free moment at night to write, so I am also really looking forward to read, color, craft and watch some TV again. 
NEXT STEPS:
  • Edit, edit, edit... write, write, write... edit, edit, edit. I hope to spend some time editing this month and then developing my story further. Now that I'm 50k words in, I feel like I can't just leave it because I've invested a whole month into it. 
  • Read, read, read. I have craved reading so much this month because there were moments when I was so tapped for inspiration. My me-time is so limited since I have to very young children, so it was hard to do both. I am really looking forward to reading and leaning on some mentor texts for inspiration and ideas. My little journal of favorite quotes from books is in need of more quotes! 
  • Get over my withdrawal. I think I wrote this blog post because I didn't want to break my routine of writing each night. NaNoWriMo withdrawal is very real. Even though I know I can obviously still write as much as I want to, I am looking forward to having more balance in my life again. I can see why people do this challenge over and over again though. It's like running a race. Once you finish, now you want more... 
  • Next year's NaNoWriMo? I love that this challenge is in November because we get Veteran's Day off and a whole week at Thanksgiving. It finally starts to get cold in San Diego, and it's dark early. It's great for writing! 
Cheers to all the other NaNoWriMo winners! (And to those that didn't finish too, because any writing is better than no writing at all.) 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Blog Tour & Review :: The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson


Title: The Golden Braid
Author: Melanie Dickerson
Publisher: Nyree Press (September 2015)

Source: Received from publisher via LitFuse Publicity Group


Buy book: here

The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower… 
Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry. 
Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides to move them once again—this time, to the large city of Hagenheim. 
The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight—Sir Gerek—Rapunzel, in turn, rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to him than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position? 
As Rapunzel acclimates to life in a new city, she uncovers a mystery that will forever change her life. In this Rapunzel story unlike any other, a world of secrets and treachery are about to be revealed after seventeen years. How will Rapunzel finally take control of her own destiny? And who will prove faithful to a lowly peasant girl with no one to turn to?

Review:

What a delightful read! This is my first Melanie Dickerson book and I'm happy to hear that she has five more in the Hagenheim series. 

If you are looking for a sweet love story, fairy-tale retelling of Rapunzel mixed with some Christian fiction, this is perfect for you. The dialogue is witty, the action and adventure is paced well, and the Christian message behind everything isn't too preachy. 

My daughters and I love watching Tangled and when I signed up for this blog tour, I was curious to see what Dickerson's take on this fairy-tale would be. I am happy to say that her take on the story was definitely an original one and still very interesting. Rapunzel's character really spoke to me because she is searching for who she truly is, in a coming-of-age story. I love when people write princesses who are bold and adventurous, versus dainty and weak. Rapunzel is definitely no damsel in distress in this book, but she was still feminine and vulnerable too. 

Mother Gothel was truly evil in this rendition, even more so than in the Disney version, in my opinion. I love the storyline with Rapunzel going against her mother to learn to read. It was a unique take on her relationship with her mother and later, Sir Gerek, who was definitely swoon-worthy, especially once the two of them start to rely more on God's guidance instead of their own.

I also enjoyed that this book felt very much like a historical fiction one with all the references to different time period in Germany. It was fun to learn about the different customs and traditions. 

My only critique is that there times when the book bordered a little too closely to being cheesy at times, or cliched rather, but once I got over that, it was still very enjoyable. 

Looking forward to checking out Dickerson's other titles!



Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

About the author:


Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer's Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of the National Reader's Choice Award for Best First Book. Melanie earned a bachelor's degree in special education from the University of Alabama and has been a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.

Connect with Melanie: websiteTwitter,Facebook, YouTube


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Blog Tour & Review :: The Finishing School by Valerie Woerner


Title: The Finishing School
Author: Valerie Woerner 
Publisher: Nyree Press (September 2015)

Source: Received from publisher via LitFuse Publicity Group


Buy book: here

Are you tired of waiting for change to happen in your life? Do you feel stuck, even though you want to live more intentionally?
 In today’s world, our most precious pursuit of a life well lived gets squeezed out by the silliest of things: binging on Netflix or ice cream, shopping trips for things we don’t need, bad habits we can’t seem to get a handle on, and so much more. Valerie has been there despite knowing what she wanted for her life. Actually do it? That’s the challenge.
After gobbling up all the non-fiction and self-help books her donut-filled belly could handle, she decided it was time to put her knowledge to good use and start actually living it out. You will hear about her journey through victories and plenty of failures and find practical tips to apply to your own pursuit of holiness. You will find homework at the end of each chapter that includes a worksheet to put real change in motion for your own life as well as recommended books to further study those topics that really test you.

Review:

I've been in a funk. Stuck in a rut that is so deep that all I could see was the next step in front of me, but nothing else. Moving aimlessly in the endless routine of day in and day out as a working mother with no relief in sight. 

I think that's why I absolutely adored this book. It's the book that I wish I had written because it was everything that I needed in my life right now. So much of what she wrote in this book resonated with me. Fellow book nerd, knowledge junkie? Check and check! 


I've been following Valerie on Instagram (@valmariepaper) for awhile now. I've always found her posts not only beautiful, but inspirational. I love her prayer journals and have been eyeing them for a long time. There was a period of my life (early in my marriage and pre-kids), when I would diligently keep a prayer journal. It was probably the time of my life when I felt the closest to God. In all honesty, I miss it. I miss Him terribly. This book has inspired me to start a new one again.


What I appreciated about this book is that each chapter was a quick, succinct guide to different areas of your life: joy, friendship, self-control, margin, etc. My favorite guides were to habits, balance, and comparison because they are the current demons that are at the most forefront of my life right now. 


Valerie writes in a way that is totally relatable, real, and at times humorous. It felt like sitting at a coffee shop with a close friend and bonding over common struggles of daily life. I think the Enemy wants nothing more than to make you think that you are alone in your daily trials and tribulations to make you feel isolated and like you're fighting the battles with your own sheer willpower and strength (or weaknesses, rather). It feels validating and refreshing to know that I am not alone and even though my journey and pursuit towards holiness in my walk with Christ will not be perfect, at least I know that I've got God on my side. I really don't think I'll ever be the same after reading this book and I'm thankful that I had the chance to read it through Litfuse. I am looking forward to the next steps in my journey as a Christ-follower, wife, mother, and woman. Thank you Valerie, for writing this book that spoke directly to my heart. 


I zipped through this book a little faster than I would have liked because I didn't have "balance" in my life, but I plan on rereading it again, slower... to savor each chapter and read it more like a devotional. I highly recommend reading this book like a devotional. That way, you have time to let the lessons of each guide sink in. I can also see this being a great book to study together in a study group of women in a bible study/small group environment. 


Lastly, I also appreciated that she also provided free homework worksheets and resources on her website to go deeper with the material. Please check out her website at: http://www.valmariepaper.com.


Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

About the author:


Valerie Woerner is owner of Val Marie Paper. She and her husband, Tyler, live in Louisiana with their daughter, Vivi Mae. The Finishing School is her first book.

Connect with Valerie: websiteTwitterInstagram

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Blog Tour & Review :: Picture Perfect Love by Melissa McClone

Title: Picture Perfect Love
Author: Melissa McClone
Publisher: Zondervan Books (May 2015)

Source: Received from publisher via LitFuse Publicity Group

Buy book: here
About the Book:
When image becomes everything, it's up to love to refocus the heart.

Photographer Jenna Harrison wants every bride and groom to look picture perfect on their special day, putting her heart into every wedding to give the couple memorable images of their love. But her own heart is still broken, the unworn wedding dress hanging in her closet a reminder that relationships aren't always as perfect as they look through her camera lens. But Jenna has faith that she will find true love. Until then, she must be patient and trust in God's plan and His perfect timing.

Attorney Ashton Vance is the one that got away. When an embarrassing Photoshopped picture of put an end to his political aspirations, he blamed Jenna. So what if the photo led to his being offered a dream job and changing his life for the better? Jenna betrayed his trust, and two years later, Ashton's heart still hasn't recovered.

It was me. His younger sister's three words turn Ashton's world upside down. He must ask Jenna's forgiveness, but can he risk his heart a second time? Even if Jenna can forgive him, dare he hope for a second chance at her love?

Review:
One of the things I liked about the book was the premise of the book. Being a Christian wedding photographer myself, it definitely stood out to me and spoke to me. I also enjoyed that it was a story about redemption and second chances, especially because I like to believe that I am a fan of forgiveness and that people can really change. 

However, the story itself was a little too straightforward for me. Maybe because it was a novella, but I felt like the story was too rushed and the characters were underdeveloped. Consequently, it was challenging to really care about the characters. When Ashton shows up in the story, Jenna almost immediately starts to forgive him even though she spent the last two years piecing her life back together. All it took was him repaying her for the wedding that should have been. He should have done that the moment he called off the wedding and she should have made him! Then, what angered me even more was that Ashton actually needed a "third chance" from Jenna later on in the book! I think Jenna deserved better. 

It's a good thing that God's love is more unconditional than mine because in this story, He obviously changed Jenna's heart and provided her with a spirit of forgiveness, even though I can't really say that I would have done the same thing if I were in her shoes. This story had a lot of potential, but it lacked the depth I was looking for. 

About the author:
Melissa McClone has published more than thirty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group. She has also been nominated for Romance Writers of America's RITA® award. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three school-aged children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house.

Find Melissa online: websiteTwitterFacebook
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